Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Healthy on a Budget - Eat Less Meat

From now on I plan to only buy organic meat, ideally from a local farmer, but first I'll have to find one (or two or more).  Buying organic meat can be expensive at about $5 per pound of ground meat and $4 per pound for a whole chicken, not to mention more expensive cuts of meat.  In order to afford having meat and seafood in our diet (and staying within our budget of $100/week) we will have to eat less of it.  Meat will become more like a side dish than the main component of our meals.

For example, my Venison "Sloppy Janes" from this week's meal plan have mashed sweet potatoes, lentils and wheat berries in addition to the ground meat.  I have been trying for awhile to cut back on how much meat we eat by eating more soups, salads, rice and noodle dishes, or casseroles - all of which make our meat go further.  The more I read about healthy eating, the more I hear "eat less meat."  It is not only good for your budget, but good for your health!  If we do have meat or seafood as our main component we typically only eat three to four ounces and have lots of sides.  We used to have at least one vegetarian meal a week, but this has already started to increase.  We are eating more legumes, whole grains, fruits and veggies, along with tofu on occasion.

In our family we have the added benefit hunters and fishermen, so we get venison and fresh lake fish often.  That is always a hobby you or a family member could pick up.  Just like it is with gardening for me, my husband enjoys providing good food for our family through the recreational activity of hunting and fishing.

Other ideas for saving money on organic meat include buying a whole or half of an organic cow, lamb or pig and sharing it with others.  I've seen prices as low as $2 per pound for organic grassfed beef when you are able to do it that way.  I also like to buy a whole chicken and cut it up myself.  Not only is it cheaper to do it that way, but I get more out of the chicken than I would if I just bought the breasts.  When I cut up the chicken I have the backbone, ribs, neck and misc. other parts that I can save for homemade stock - which then gets used in many other meals.  And when I make the stock there is meat left from the process that I can use to make quesadillas or a casserole of some kind.  I like to separate the tenders from the breasts and keep those separate for salads.  Here is a video that is helpful for learning how to cut up a chicken on your own.  The chicken looks oddly yellow and I don't recall him removing the ribs from the breast, but that is easy enough to figure out if you want a boneless breast and remember to save those ribs for stock.
Or, if you are really ambitious, you could raise your own animals.  My sister is planning on raising chickens and one of Ryan's uncle's gets two beef cows every year - one to sell and one to butcher for his family.  Chickens require less space and some cities are even allowing it within city limits.  Both Madison, WI and Denver, CO are on that list.  Check out your ordinances, you may be surprised!

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